Sunday, April 22, 2018

Our Week in Review

We had an amazing week in Mexico, as you could see from the video!

This is the 6th year that a team from CenterPoint Church has embraced the chance to go and grow at the Hogar de Amor orphanage in Colima Mexico. This year we brought 26 people from CenterPoint - singles and families, kids and grandparents - all bringing their own unique passions and skills to the week.

Over the week we were able to contribute about 600 hours of labor to jobs around the orphanage:
  • We painted and painted
  • We plumbed hot water to a house that previously only had cold running water
  • We added shelves to closets
  • We sewed curtains
  • We mended clothes
  • We paved a patio
  • We repaired bikes and computers

We were blessed and so excited about the support and gifts for Hogar de Amor that we received this year. From this church and community we were able to donate over a thousand pairs of underwear, 700 pairs of socks, 800 toothbrushes, and almost $20,000 in support.

And we created some great memories with the kids:
  • We got to host a pool party for 100 kids and 30 caregivers - that was a big day and we still have the sunburns to prove it!
  • We got to play games and sing songs and do crafts with the kids each day.
  • We stuffed and hid 1500 Easter eggs in an empty lot and reveled in the pandemonium of a crazy egg hunt.

It was a big week!

It was a blessed week.

Thank you for supporting us, for sending us, and for praying for us.

This trip matters. Not because of the dollars or the supplies that get donated or even the jobs that get done. Those things are what we do, but they aren’t why we go. Those things and those activities are an outpouring of our love. They’re the effects of our devotion to our brothers and sisters in Colima, Mexico.

This trip matters because it’s a time to learn from and actively participate in God’s sustaining love in action:
God’s love for each of us
God’s love expressed through us to the kids and caregivers of Hogar de Amor
God’s love expressed to us through the kids and caregivers of Hogar de Amor

This week I got a beautiful note from one of the caregivers at Hogar de Amor. I think it sums up our week perfectly:
Thanks so much to the whole team... I don’t think we have the words to thank all of you for your work and support… Thank you especially for all of the love and care you all gave us and for treating us like family - really for us you are part of our family and we admire you so much and love you. Thank you! You are like angels of God who make us feel loved. Thank you so much.
Thank you for being a part of what God is doing for and through Hogar de Amor.

Please keep Hogar de Amor in your prayers!
  • Pray for the kids of Hogar de Amor - that they will know they are loved and precious and complete because they are children of God. 
  • Pray for the caregivers and staff of Hogar de Amor, that they will be blessed with wisdom to parent kids in tough places and the energy to carry on in this tough calling. 
  • Pray that Hogar de Amor would have favor with officials, would have ample funding, and would have many many hands to share the work 
  • And pray that in the dark times, the tired times, the discouraged times that everybody in that ministry would know that they are loved fiercely and passionately and sacrificially and tenderly - by us and most of all by God.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Reflections on Serving: Steve

This year was my first trip to Mexico, and I was rather apprehensive. I'm not great with foreign languages and so I wasn't sure how much I'd be able to communicate with the people we were serving.

First, it was amazing to meet the kids we sponsor. It really makes a difference to meet the kids in person that we have been writing and sending gifts to all these years.

My best experience was fixing bicycles for the kids. My son, Ben, organized donations from the local bicycle club that we ride with and we were able to take down new tubes and pumps and patch kits for a many of the overly-loved bikes at the orphanage. It was terrific to have so many interested helpers engage with the tools and us. When one of the bike was finished there would be happy cheers and a little niƱo proudly test-riding the bike around the grounds.

One boy, Nair, was so excited to see me everyday that he would run over and shout, "Steve, Steve, I fix too!" I admit that so much "help" got in the way of fixing the bikes quickly, but the time spent with the kids and showing them how to use the tools was more valuable for me than getting every one of the bikes working.

I was happily surprised by how reciprocal the trip is. Jamie has gone on this trip six times and as much as we love on the kids and caregivers it's amazing how they love us right back. These relationships that have been forged through time and shared experience: we are all in this together. This isn't just a team of Utah Christians who head to Mexico to paint a wall or two, but this is a larger family who share their experiences and their hearts despite any language barriers.

This was so clear as we spent time at the water park hosting a pool party for the kids and caregivers. I couldn't go ten feet into one of our cabanas without being offered some food or a drink. Everything that was brought by every orphanage house was shared. There were generous cuts of grilled meat at one tent and luscious fresh fruit sliced and spiced at another. We were the ones being taken care of as much as we caring for others. This community of believers truly lives like the early church in Acts, breaking bread together in community with glad and sincere hearts, giving to everyone in need, and praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.

Reflections on Serving: Sasha

(age 11)

One of my favorite things I like doing down in Mexico is hanging out with the kids and doing projects with the kids. This year my favorite project I did was paint the Golondrinas house we had to paint three girls bedrooms. Which had were painted pink and purple and one boy bedroom which was all blue. The people who worked on the bedrooms were me, Lazavia, Cindy, and Julie.

Why it’s special to me when I go down there is:
One: I get to spend time with the kids and make them feel loved by people.
Two: I get to do projects to help the orphanage and the kids.
Three: It’s fun to go down there and see new things and try new experiences.
And finally it’s fun to see how the children like what we have done and want to help us with our jobs.

My favorite thing we did this year was:
One: We went to a pool party with the kids and I enjoyed that because I got to hang out with them and they were having fun.
Two: Was the tour that we did I got to see new things and learn more about the culture.
And three: The easter egg hunt with the kids because they could celebrate easter with us and they all had fun together.

And those were some of the things I really enjoy about going down to Mexico.

Reflections on Serving: Wendy

My name is Wendy Matheney and one of the things I'm good at is being selfish and staying comfortable. I went on this trip 6 years ago and I was miserable. I did not have the right attitude to go there. It was hot and the work was hard. I pretty much vowed that I wouldn't go back. Well, this year I decided if there was going to be an opening on the trip that my husband and son take each year, I was going to make myself available. I'm tired of being selfish and it is time to get uncomfortable for someone else's benefit. Well, that opportunity came and I took it. I was scared, worried that I would complain, become a burden and worried that I would upset my husband and son with that kind of attitude. Let me tell you, I prayed to God to help me be of service to someone else and to stay in that mindset and it was the most amazing trip this time. The weather was still hot and the work was still hard, but I felt joy in all of it.

My favorite scriptures of all time is James 1:2-5, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." This set of scriptures rings true in my head more times that I can even count. If I can, I have to look for the joy in all things, even the hard things. I was able to overcome being uncomfortable and working hard. It actually felt good.

Now let me tell you why it felt good this time. I was able to look into the house parents faces and realize that every day of their lives, they are serving God by serving the "least of his." They take care of children that have no families left. This is everyday for them. It is very hard work and it takes 24 hours a day. We are there to give them whatever kind of relief they might need at the time. It is usually small jobs (painting walls or furniture, laying some pavers). This time they did ask for some plumbing for a house that didn't have any running hot water. Can you imagine taking care of several boys in one household and not having running hot water for then to take baths or showers? Oh wait and the house mother is pregnant with her own child. Our team happily did that for them and the gratitude that they have is overwhelming. They just didn't have the means to do it themselves and our team was filled with joy to do that for them. To be able to give them some relief for all the hard work that they do was utter joy for me. My husband, son and grandson just helped a family paint the front of their house. They were so grateful and it just took us one and a half days to finish that part and then we moved to another house and helped that team finish the rest of painting some rooms. We had a blast all together, listening to christian music and worshiping God while serving God by serving the "least of his," that serve the "least of his."

There seems to be a theme here that I need to remind myself often. I am so blessed with the life and family that I have, that whenever I get a chance to serve someone else, I need to take it and run with it. It actually makes you feel better when you're serving someone else. Crazy, but so true! God Bless!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Reflections on Serving: Jamie

This was my 6th year leading a group of folks from CenterPoint Church, Utah down to Colima, Mexico to serve at the Hogar de Amor orphanage and each year God does something a little bit new, a little bit uncomfortable, and a whole lot deeper in me.

I'll level with you: The trip is kind of a lot of work to put together. It turns out that arranging travel and logistics in a foreign country for 26 people of all ages and backgrounds is tough. And stressful. So why? Why do it at all?

Because I can't imagine not doing it.

Because my family gets to travel with our church family to visit our Mexico family.

Because it's not a visit; it's a reunion.

When we first started this trip, we did it for the kids: our kids and the kids of Hogar de Amor. I have two kids adopted internationally, and it was really important to me to keep our family connected to what it means to be a kid in institutional care. Adoption, the fatherless, kids in need are such an intimate, essential part of our family's story. Adoption is how God expresses his relationship to us: chosen and pursued and cherished (much more about that here).

Over the years, God has used Hogar de Amor to break down my performance-driven tendencies and focus on relationship. The walls we paint will get dirty again and the curtains we sew will rip and the crafts the kids make will get thrown away.

But the relationships we make;

the sure and certain knowledge we leave the caregivers with that they are supported, prayed for, and never ever alone in this work;

the kids knowing that they're worth coming back for year after year after year

that lasts.

And I get to be a little part of it.
Love...  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Reflections on Serving: Lee and Cindy

The trip to Hogar de Amor in 2017 was our first time traveling to Colima for the week. For two weeks prior to our leaving our lives were turned upside down with serious health issues for my parents, we were not even sure if we’d be able to go until two days prior to us leaving for Colima.

While we were there our lives were so touched by the children and the caregivers we began praying that God would change our hearts, we were very comfortable living the lives we were living. The week there changed the way we saw the world. When we returned home our lives were upended again when the company where I’d worked for over 13 years eliminated my position two days after we returned home. While in Colima our prayer was that God would change our hearts, now we didn’t have a choice, our lives changed. Through out the process of seeking a new position our hearts were still tightly knitted to Hogar de Amor, the children and caregivers, and our plan on going again did not waiver.

This year’s trip was once again a life changing trip, we again saw the depth of love the caregivers gave to the children, how well the children are cared for, and loved, just amazed us. While we’re there we help to relieve some of the burden by doing some jobs on the homes that the caregivers just do not have time for along with caring for the children. We paint, repair items that need repair, help building on building projects, work on needed improvements, and then the most fun, playing with the children. This year we took 90 children plus 24 caregivers to a water park on the last day there. This was a day we’ll not forget, the joy on the children, and caregiver’s faces will forever be etched on our minds. It was nice to see them all together away from the homes enjoying a fun day. This is something I hope will happen regularly in the future.

Our goal is to continue going to Hogar de Amor every year, and in retirement spending longer periods of time there, the children and caregivers truly changed the way we see the world and our place in it. Our encouragement to anybody considering going on this trip would be to “Just Do It”, the time there has changed our lives for the better. We went there to give of ourselves and ended up receiving much more in return.
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” - James 1:27

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Reflections on Serving: Mark

This year I had the privilege to go with my son Lucas, my wife was not able to come this time. We missed her yet we knew that unwritten pages of our lives would get filled with moments from this trip. Traveling to Mexico is relatively easy and the airport in Guadalajara is very nice. Putting our heads on the pillow that night, at Hotel Costeno in Colima, was fantastic. I had a lot of anticipation of what the coming week would be like and was a little too worried about it until the week began on Monday. At first, I forgot a lot of the Spanish that I had studied along with some of the other team members during the year leading up to the trip. Sometimes we need a little reminder of why we are doing things and the Lord is always kind to do so, he is ever present with us. Trying our best to communicate with the kids and caregivers and anyone else we encounter in Mexico is what it is all about. :)

I volunteered to lead the crafts and was really excited about it. My wife, Jenny, helped me take the ideas I had and we turned them into the crafts that we did. A lot of planning, testing and preparation was involved before we left but all of the crafts were packed into my suitcase ready to go when we got there. I love and cherish this opportunity because it was one way I could contribute and it was so much fun. My hope was they would bless the kids in some way, even long after we were gone. One very special moment happened with one of the crafts we were doing with cardboard picture frames. The kids rarely get new pictures taken of themselves, so the plan was to take new Polaroid pics of each of them, then place those onto a cardboard picture frame that they could decorate and make their own. Special thanks to WanYing Morningstar for taking the pics with her own Polariod camera! We stuck some awesome flat magnets on the back of the picture frames so they could hang them up in their bedrooms, if they wanted.

So the kids decorated them with gems and such, they are so creative and cute. The pictures, the glue dots, gems and magnets were all holding well and looking beautiful and the kids seemed really excited about them.

The next morning we were working on various jobs at the orphanage and my friend Dan sent me a text with a picture from one of the bedrooms at the house he and his family were working at. A bunch of the picture frames were hung up on the kids beds. He said that every room had them hung up like that. Wow!!! It was such a sweet moment and my heart melted, the Lord is so good!

In the midst of our rather busy week I spent time in the afternoons under the tall trees at Casa Matriz, one of the houses, and just rested and hung out with some of the kids. Soaking in as much as I could, this time really blessed my soul.

Lucas and I enjoyed the entire week and the special time of going to an amazing water park with the kids, Mexico has it going on seriously!! The caregivers and kids welcomed us so warmly into their homes and hearts which was so amazing. We love and care for them deeply, they are family!! Ultimately all of this is because of the Lord’s kindness toward us in everything. We are so grateful for the opportunity to go this year and we will remember the special people at Hogar de Amor until we see them again.